The trellises are filling up fast in the demo garden, and this cattle panel arch is one of the most impressive. On it we’re growing cucuzzi gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) which I just had to have after admiring them at Monticello last year.
They’re pretty big, but very edible. This one is well over a foot long, and will keep growing till it’s three feet or more (by which time it may not be so edible).
Here’s what William Woys Weaver has to say about these gourds in 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From:
“This culinary gourd has been raised in the Mediterranean region for at least two thousand years, perhaps even longer, for ceramic copies of it have been found in archeological sites on Cyprus and in Egypt. … Prior to contact with the New World, Zucca [meaning gourd, but now extended to all sorts of squash] a Tromba was this long, baseball bat-like gourd that furnished Italian gardeners with a source of zucchini (baby gourds). Once New World squashes were introduced in the 1500s, it was quickly discovered that the young fruits could also be used in the same manner, hence the transfer of cooking techniques and terminology.”
I harvested this slightly larger but less potentially decorative fruit today (lying on the ground, it wouldn’t get long and straight) and prepared half of it for dinner, sauteed in olive oil with onions, garlic and medium-hot peppers. It tastes a lot like zucchini (the Cucurbita pepo sort) though I’d call it a little blander with a tougher skin (should be harvested younger).
This is how it looks, cut up.
Other features of this interesting plant include the leaves (you can get a sense in the above photos how impressively large they are) and the flowers, which are similar to those of other gourds such as the luffa, but a creamy white. You have to photograph them earlier in the morning than I got around to it today – this one is a little the worse for wear. (If you look closely you can see a cucumber beetle resting in the flower. The plant doesn’t appear to have any serious insect damage, however.)
The other thing that really impresses me about cucuzzi is the strength of the tendrils. They are massive! This can be a problem if you are not around to frequently persuade the vines that they want to climb the structure you’ve offered and not some other adjacent structure or plant. I’ve had to snap quite a few tendrils already – no problem for the cucuzzi, though.
I seem to have used the word “impressive” and its forms a lot in this post! Well, that’s what the cucuzzi gourd is. It reminds me of the zucchetta tromboncino (or rampicante) squash we usually grow but are skipping this year (that one would be on the Americas side of the garden if we were growing it), but it is a little more agreeable when it comes to climbing. It’s fun – if you have room, try it!